Everyone seems to know about the serene beauty of Lake Atitlan, the old-world charm of Antigua and the exotic ruins of Tikal. And by all means, you should certainly visit those places; they are all well worth the journey. But, have you ever had the desire to explore a different side of Guatemala; something off the beaten path?
Well, have we got the list for you! Curated by our very own Rony Mejía, you will definitely want to add one or two of these gems to your next Guatemalan vacation. In fact, simply tack on a few extra days to your next CoEd tour to Guatemala. Here we go!
1. Yaxha, Petén
At least as spectacular as Tikal, Yaxha also includes two small lakes, making it an even more interesting place to visit. Huge restoration efforts undertaken over the last ten years, plus a local community actively involved in providing tourism services makes Yaxha the hidden jewel of the Maya legacy. Less crowded than Tikal, you will get the chance to observe all sorts of wildlife, including birds and monkeys!
2. Sinkhole Country (Cenotes) Nentón, Huehuetenango
Near the eastern border with Mexico, Nentón is riddled with more than 200 cenotes, or sinkholes, formed centuries ago by collapsing cave systems. Today, many of these holes have plants growing inside of them, and a few boast a perfect cylindrical shape and house entire forests within! There are even a series of small lakes in some of the sinkholes. These things are seriously huge, and unlike anything you have ever seen!
3. Relief Map, Guatemala City
Some of our more recent tour veterans may remember visiting this map, so feel free to chime in with how cool it is! It’s not something that most tours of Guatemala City cover, but it is a great way to understand Guatemala’s geography, and was recently renovated by the Municipality of Guatemala. It’s fun to check out before or after a CoEd tour so you can see exactly where you are going, or just how much ground you covered over the previous week (hint: A LOT!).
4. Candelaria Caves, Alta Verapaz
Located along the road that connects Cobán and Petén, Candelaria Caves National Park includes one of the largest cave systems in all of Latin America. Guided tours of the caves are available: your choices include a walking tour or a tubing tour down the Candelaria river! The caves were considered sacred ground by the ancient Maya, so you will see ancient altars used for rituals and archaeological remains dating back to Maya Classic times.
5. Chicabal Volcano, San Martín Sacatepéquez, Quetzaltenango
Chicabal is a sacred mountain to the Maya of Guatemala. You can drive up a considerable portion of the mountain, but eventually will have to get out and walk (the exercise is good for you, we promise!). You will walk through clouds and mountain forests to get all the way to the edge of the volcano’s crater. Look inside the crater to see even more forest and a beautiful lake. You can also see other volcanoes nearby, and, if you’re lucky, you might even get to see (and hear!) the Santiaguito volcano erupt.
6. Ipala Volcano, Jutiapa and Jalapa
Ipala might not be the tallest volcano, but its flat surroundings make it the premier vantage point for some pretty spectacular photo ops. Additionally, the crater is now a small lake where you can take a refreshing swim if the mood strikes.
7. La Muela, Quetzaltenango
La Muela was formed by thousands of volcanic rocks from an eruption of the Cerro Quemado volcano. Climbing La Muela is more exciting than your average hike, because you will need to use your hands to get past parts of this rocky trail. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Xela, the surrounding towns, and fields in Almolonga and Zunil.
Now that you know the must-visit spots in Guatemala, let us help with deciding when to travel. Here are the dates for CoEd’s upcoming trips to Guatemala:
Feb. 24-March 1, 2015
July 28-August 2, 2015
Guatemala Literacy Project Rotary Tour
February 6-15, 2015
Join us for a life-changing journey, and then spend some extra time in the land of eternal spring visiting any (or all!) of these seven wonders.
Are you ready to choose the path less traveled and join us in Guatemala? Have you visited any of these must-see places?